The world’s most talked about tournament is with us. It’s been four years since the 2014 edition of the FIFA World Cup was held, a competition in which Germany emerged as champions after knocking out Argentina in the final.
This year, the FIFA World Cup 2018 promises to bring more fireworks, this brought about after some nations pulled some surprises during the qualifier stages and some of the old guards still finding their way to the group stages. We’ll be listing out some of the top moments we believed shaped the tournament and changed the conversation of football among fans and critics alike.
1. Frank Lampard Vs. Germany (South Africa, 2010)
The group stages were done and dusted and two nations, England and Germany were set to go head-to-head to determine who was going to qualify for the next round. Incidentally, what appeared to be an evenly matched game on paper didn’t pan out exactly as most England Three Lions fans hoped. Germany came out guns a blazing and took a commanding two-goal lead in the first hour, Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski scoring the two goals to put England to the sword.
Luckily for England, true to the adage, a game is determined over the course 90 minutes. They managed to pull one back a couple of minutes later quickly. Unbeknownst to many, was the fact that disaster was set to strike soon.
Legendary English midfielder, Frank Lampard, pulled off one of his classic thumping shots at goal in the 39th minute which was powerful enough to ricochet from the bottom of the crossbar, bouncing inside the goal line and bounce right out. Unluckily, the valid-goal was not seen by the referee, Jorge Larrionda. He disallowed the goal much to the dismay of many Three Lions fans.
There are those who argue that because of their lack of fortune in getting the goal allowed, the remainder of the England game paled in comparison to the earlier moments when they seemed to have some fight in them. Marksman Thomas Muller ensured that Germany went home victorious by notching a brace in the second half, sending Germany straight to the quarterfinals.
2. Diego Maradona Vs England (Mexico, 1986)
In 1986, Anglo-Argentine relations were not in good form after the Falklands War. Diego Maradona, the undisputed Argentine star-man, had been contained by Bobby Robson and his cohorts for quite a while right before he struck the goal that sent England crashing out of the competition.
The diminutive Maradona managed to beat Peter Shilton to a looping ball and score with his fist raised towards goal. As the Argentine teammates went on a rampage in celebration, English players were enraged that the incident had been allowed to go down. Maradona’s comments after the game made him all the more infamous. He claimed that the goal was revenge on England, he even likened it to recover a bit of the Malvinas. Politics and football seemed inseparable to him.
3. Karim Benzema Vs Goal Line Technology (2014)
Goal Line Technology, implemented for the first time following the 2010 Frank Lampard debacle, was set to revolutionize the way footballing decisions at goal mouth implemented. However, in the case of Karim Benzema, the technology was a source of bane. Having already scored two goals in the first half, Benzema struck a magnificent volley that seemed goalbound, only to bounce off the back post before going in. Goal Line technology rewarded the goal to France but incorrectly declared it as a Noel Valladares own goal. Thereby denying Benzema the opportunity to walk away with the match ball at full time.
4. Thierry Henry Vs. Republic of Ireland
In the first leg of the qualifiers, France had managed to beat the Republic of Ireland 1-0 in Dublin. The second leg in Paris was set to determine who would progress to the FIFA World Cup. In the 33rd minute, Robbie Keane equaled the aggregate score for the Green Army in the second fixture. However, there wasn’t much goal action, and the scored remained the same until the 90th minute. In added time, in the 103rd minute, France got a free kick, and Florent Malouda lobbed a ball to Thierry Henry from the halfway line.
Because of the awkwardness in the ball’s position, he deliberately handled the ball before crossing it to the unmanned William Gallas to head straight to goal. Later on, it became public knowledge that the France goal wasn’t just a case of double handball, but, it had been taken in an offside position. Tragically, Ireland missed out on the South Africa, 2010 FIFA World Cup.
5. Hungary’s 10/10 Performance against El Salvador, 1982
With a civil war going on in their country, many were astounded that El Salvador qualified for the FIFA World Cup tournament. Citizens took pride in knowing that their team was competing for places in the world’ greatest footballing event.
However, it seems that the will to represent their nation got in the heads of the El Salvador players who appeared to attack with reckless abandon. They left themselves exposed at the back, and Hungary capitalized on their mistakes. El Salvador suffered a humiliating defeat; they were beaten 10-1 by the Hungary team. What was once a source of pride turned into outrage.
6. Roger Milla vs. Colombia, 1990
The 1990 edition of the FIFA World Cup in Italy saw an African team get to the quarterfinals for the finals after a string of surprising results. Unbelievably, the talisman of the Cameroon team during the tournament was none other than 38-year-old Roger Milla. He managed to score twice against Colombia sending an entire continent and the whole world into an uproar. One of his goals was quite memorable because he snatched the ball from an overly ambitious goalkeeper before calmly stroking the ball into an empty net.
The celebration after scoring was entirely one of a kind that Coca-Cola soon branded the belly-wiggling dance. Speaking to reporters, Milla acknowledged that football has the power to catapult a small country into world beaters.
7. Dennis Bergkamp vs Argentina, 1998
Bergkamp’s graceful strides leading up to his goal in the last minute of normal time in the 1998 quarterfinals was quite simply an incredible moment. In the searing heat of Marseille against Argentina with the scores level at one apiece, up stepped Bergkamp to change the scores.
He converted Frank de Boer’s long ball into a gallant stride of sort’s right inside the penalty box. His deftly taken first touch allowed the ball to seem glued to his foot which made the second touch all the more majestic as he got past Roberto Ayala, the defender, to cut on the inside. As imperious as his touches were, the finishing can best be described as being sublime as Bergkamp struck it with the outside of his foot into the top corner. Since then, Bergkamp has gone down in World Cup folklore as one of the best first-time ball handlers of all time. Maybe we could see some more incredible moves in the World Cup 2018? Right?
8. The Cruyff Turn is Born in the 1974 World Cup
So perfect was Johann Cruyff’s ballerina like movements that the trick was named after him. In the first round against Sweden, Cruyff pulled off a wonder-move that left many mouths ajar. On the left side of the penalty area, Jan Olsson, unlucky to have been the one defending the wonderful talent of Cruyff, was turned inside out when Cruyff faked his movement and dragged the ball with the inside of his foot the other way, around the plant leg.
Despite Cruyff never getting the opportunity to win the FIFA World Cup, his signature move put him right amongst other greats. There have been numerous great players who have tried to pull off the Cruyff turn without being able to neatly, pull it off.
9. Andres Iniesta’s Extra Time Special Vs. Holland, 2010
In extra time, Andres Iniesta finally came of age when he put Spain ahead against Holland. The physicality of the game made the game right for anyone to carve out any golden chances. The big moment came in the 109th minute when John Heitinga received his second yellow for a foul on Iniesta. With 10 minutes left, Spain upped their attacking impetus looking to take advantage of the extra man.
Despite the best of attempts by the Dutch to hold on to the score and go to penalties, Spain prevailed. Going away from an offside position, Iniesta made a couple of steps before being picked up by a Fabregas through ball. He took one touch before the ball bounced and sat pretty for him to smack a shot into the back of the net. A wonderful moment for all and sundry as the match ended in climactic fashion.
10. The Perks of Being a Referee, the Esse Baharmast Story, 1998
In the match between Norway and Brazil, the referee emerged as the main story because of an officiating decision he made. Brazil was already ahead thanks to a goal scored in the 78th minute before Norway struck to equalize the scores 5 minutes later. With the growing tension in the stadium, the match looked poised to end in normal time, before there was drama in the penalty area.
The referee, Esse Baharmast, blew to award Norway a penalty after Tore Andre Flow went down following a challenge from Junior Biano, just two minutes away from normal time. Right after the game, several newspapers and television stations castigated the American decision for giving a dubious call. Incredibly, just a few days later, a Swedish TV station got access to an unseen before the angle of the challenge where it is evident that Biano pulled Flo down from behind. In the end, Baharmast went down as a hero for giving the right decision, irrespective of what everyone thought.
11. Paused Game Between France and Kuwait, 1982
In every FIFA World Cup, there are always a couple of moments that seem hard to believe. In recent history, none seems to come close to the events that transpired in the 1982 World Cup match between France and Kuwait. After taking a commanding 3-1 lead against Kuwait, the game had to be brought to a halt following a contentious issue pitch side.
With Giresse clear on goal, a whistle blew in the crowd, and the Kuwaitis momentarily stopped playing. Unperturbed by the new turn of events, Giresse proceeded to dispatch his goal into the back of the net. However, the Kuwaitis were infuriated because they believed that it was the referee who had whistled for the game to stop. Their FA President, Sheikh Fahid Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah instructed the team to stop playing and get off the pitch before chaos ensued.
After making complaints, the referee allowed the goal to be taken off the scoreboard, despite it being a legitimate goal. France went on to win the game 4-1 and the referee, Stupar, was never allowed to referee another World Cup match. On the other hand, the Sheikh got banned for interfering play when he stepped on the pitch.
12. Bobby Moore Accused of Bracelet Theft, 1970
Right after 1966 victory of the World Cup, Bobby Moore, the captain, was a figure many looked up to in the England setup. However, just before the 1970 FIFA World Cup, a series of unfortunate events meant that Moore could not travel together with the England contingent.
Shortly after visiting a jewelry store in Bogota, Colombia, one of the store’s employees claimed to have seen Moore steal a bracelet. Colombian police detained Moore and questioned him about the alleged theft before charges were dropped, and Moore went on to help his team in Mexico. He delivered a wonderful captain’s performance, clearly unfazed from all the trouble he had to go through before the tournament began.
13. Cannavaro Locks Out the Goals, 2006
Most defenders will admit to never getting the praise they deserve after stifling the opposition sometimes. At the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Cannavaro delivered a majestic performance that saw him take home the Silver Ball.
His performance was so outstanding that almost everyone watching the World Cup took notice of the defender’s qualities. Out of Italy’s seven matches, the defenders playing alongside Cannavaro managed to keep five clean sheets; only succumbing to a single goal conceded. His leadership qualities and calm attributes helped steer Italy towards World Cup victory.
14. Armstrong Over the Moon in Spain, 1982
Not too long ago, Spain was considered serial bottlers in the football world. Their reputation as chokers was significantly enhanced after their trepid performance in the 1982 edition of the World Cup, which they were hosting.
To qualify, Northern Ireland only had to beat Spain. On the other hand, Spain didn’t have those issues; they were already through to next round. Just two minutes after the second half kicked off, Northern Ireland got on the score sheet thanks to Gerry Armstrong being at the right place at the right time. He tucked away his goal after Luis Arconada, the goalie, parried Billy Hamilton’s shot in his direction. The tag of serial bottlers stayed with Span long after the tournament before the duck was broken when Spain lifted the Euro 2008.
15. The Luck of the Irish, 1990
As fortune would have it, Ireland qualified for their first ever World Cup in 1990. With fans on their side, Ireland was drawn against the tricky opposition in the group stages; they had to face England, Holland, and Egypt.
Ireland managed to progress past the group stages by beating putting more points on the board than their opposition. In the next round, they had to beat Romania in a penalty shootout. Back then, Romania boasted an excellent squad led by Gheorghe Hagi and a collection of players with a history of winning cups for their teams. Evidently, with the talent on board, many considered the game Romania’s to lose.
A center back, David O’Leary decided to take the fifth and decisive penalty, he struck it to the left, and Romania’s keeper guessed to the right. The entire nation of Ireland erupted into an exuberant celebration to mark the historic feat. Coming to the tournament as relative newcomers, Ireland managed to tide fortunes their way and make some history in the World Cup.
16. Golden Goal, 1998
FIFA introduced the Golden Goal rule to compel teams to produce dramatic finishes in extra time. France was facing underdogs Paraguay in the first stage of the knockout round with the match scoreless before they turned the whole match on its head.
In the 113th minute, Laurent Blanc got on the end of a cross to fire past the Paraguayan goalie, Chilavert. As the first ever documented golden goal in the World Cup, the entire host nation, France was relieved before going on to win the tournament in Paris. The Les Blues narrative always starts off with the legend of Blanc’s golden goal winner that enabled them to get to the final and clinch it.
17. East Vs. West Germany, 1974
The Berlin Wall separated the Western capitalists and the socialists to the East. The political temperature between the two nations made the border one of the tensest in the world. Hosting the World Cup was West Germany in 1974, considered by many as one of the favorites to win the cup.
In a surprising twist of events, the two were paired together in a similar group setting. Governments of both nations were eager to pull one over the other nation in a show of might.
In the 77th minute, Jurgen Sparwasser got on the end of a long ball before controlling it beautifully past the West German defense. The execution was mellifluous because he chipped over Sepp Maier, the keeper. In the end, the Eastern faction of Germany won the battle, but, the West went on to win the war as they emerged winners of the World Cup. Still, many recall the particular occasion when tension was rife as one of the most beautiful FIFA World Cup moments.
18. Senegal Upsets France, 2002
As reigning European and World Cup champions, France started the tournament as favorites to prevail in the competition. There were numerous world class players in the setup like Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry. When they came up first-time qualifiers, Senegal, many expected the game to be a walkover for France. El Hadj-Diouf was the focal point of attack for Senegal and endlessly caused France problems. In the 30th minute, after playing the unmarked Papa Boupa Diop in, the keeper parried the shot to Diouf who tapped in the goal to give Senegal the lead over France.
In the second half, the Les Blues tried to test the Senegalese keeper, Tony Sylva, but, he always seemed equal to the challenge on every occasion. Making multiple saves at goal to deny the French from emerging victors. The defeat left France in such disarray that they never truly got back on the bike after the match, they went on to draw with Uruguay and lose to Denmark.
19. David Platt Vs Belgium, 1990
With only a couple of seconds to go, David Platt broke the deadlock to send England through and avoid penalties. With chances hard to come by, Belgium came closest when they hit the post, twice. However, a Paul Gascoigne freekick aimlessly floated into the box was met by Platt who decided to strike the ball from a tight angle right into the right of the goal. The superfluous volley went past Michel Prudhomme, the Belgian goalie in superb fashion. Thanks to the goal, England progressed to the quarterfinals. Following his contributions, a star was born, Platt made true his dreams to play in Italy when he signed up to play with Bari, Juventus, and Sampdoria through his career.
20. South Korea’s Golden Goal Vs. Italy, 2002
South Korean fans were over the moon once Jung-Hwan scored a wonderful goal to beat Italy and proceed to the quarterfinals for the first time. Italy had initially taken the lead through Christian Vieri’s headed goal. Their party was abruptly halted when Seol Ki-Hyon equalized, just two minutes from normal time to save South Korea. A tense extra time session was the result with both teams coming close to clinching the victory. With three minutes left before the death, Ahn Jung-Hwan leaped highest in the air to head past Gianluigi Buffon. In doing so, he created a beautiful moment for the Koreans.
21. Argentina’s Clutch Performance, 1978
With Brazil and Argentina tied at the top of their tables, Brazil proceeded to win their next match 3-1, thereby forcing Argentina needing to record a victory by a four-goal margin to advance to the next stage. When the Argentines faced Peru, they managed to play through the high expectations and trounce Peru by six goals. Upset, a brigade of Brazilians called into question the Peruvian goalie’s commitment to saving the goals. Intriguingly, the goalkeeper is said to have been born in Argentina. Thus, speculation was rife that perhaps, he had gifted his home country the victory. All that was of course just speculation and Argentina qualified for the next round after delivering great expectations.
22. Goals Galore in Extra Time, 1970
The match between West Germany and Italy was played in the newly opened spectacular Azteca Stadium. After getting the lead in just eight minutes, the Italians fell back to their usual mode of operation, defensive tactics in a bid to hold on to the lead. Karl-Heinz Schnellinger found a way to equalize the score, with a couple of minutes left on the clock.
In extra time, the Italians and Germans traded blows as they took turns to score the goals. Eventually, the game ended 4-3 with the Italians emerging victorious in the contest thanks to the deciding goal by Gianni Rivera, an Italian midfielder.
23. Alien North Korean’s Become Media Darlings, 1966
Virtually unknown to many before the tournament kicked off, the North Korean team managed to defy the odds by making a name for themselves through their FIFA World Cup excursion. Their flag was allowed to fly after much debate, and they went ahead to take on the challenge of the tournament.
Unfortunately for them, they did not fair that well against the physical Soviets who beat them 3-0. However, in the next matches, North Korea went on to beat Italy 1-0 to qualify for the quarterfinals for the first time. Having come into the tournament as an unrecognized state, North Korea showed resilience to make their presence known by causing a major footballing upset.
24. Holland’s Total Football, 1974
Before the tournament started, the Dutch teams were all the rage because of their revolutionary, and systematic total football brand. In the final, Holland met up with longtime arch-nemesis West Germany on their home soil. They almost passed the Germans to death as the balled moved from side to side. Once Johann Cruyff considered the best player in the world back then, darted into the box past two German defenders, he was hacked down by Uli Hoeneß, a defender by trade. Sepp Maier was beaten at goal by a Johan Neeskens penalty kick which earned Holland the privilege of recording the fastest ever goal in World Cup Finals history. Despite West Germany going on to win the match 2-1, the moment is fondly remembered because of the unique style of play the Dutch team exhibited to footballing fans around the world.
25. Playing Through Without Pele, 1962
It’s always unfortunate when a team loses a star player. So was the case when Brazil had to make do without their brilliant No. 10, Pele. A 17-year-old had inspired Brazil to qualification for their first-ever championship in 1958. Many expected him to take on the same mantles and inspire Brazil to victory in 1962. Tragically, Pele injured his knee while attempting to score from a distance when playing against Czechoslovakia. Despite lacking their star player, the Brazilian squad demonstrated their strength in depth as they went on to win every other game after the Czechoslovakia game.
26. Zizzou Takes Charge, 2006
After performing abysmally in the 2002 World Cup and the ensuring 2004 Euro, France was in really low spirits. Most experts expected them to crash out of the competition because of the little confidence apparent in the French team, despite the flurry of talent visible in the squad. True to form, France were unimpressive in the group stages and managed to limp through to the knockout stages.
That was right until Zinedine Zidane inspired France to victory over Spain when he gracefully glided past a defender and stroked the ball past the helpless Casillas. France got a massive lift after the triumph and confidently walked right to the finals where they almost won it before Italy carried the day.
27. Sublime Passing by Argentina, 2006
Human nature is often touted as being susceptible to making mistakes and a couple of critical weaknesses. Argentina’s second goal against Serbia and Montenegro wasn’t nigh perfect, but, the next best thing. The Argentinian team was full of attacking talents. Thus, many considered them as a favorite before the 2006 edition of the FIFA World Cup. On the other hand, Serbia and Montenegro were renowned for their rock-solid defense. Thus, the expectation was that they would shut out the Argentines from emerging victorious. The second goal went in after Argentinian players stringed together an incredible 25 passes. Cambiasso applied the finishing touch with a hammering shot into the top corner of the net. So inspiring was the Argentinian play that they capped off the match with four more goals to win the game 6-0. The moment is fondly remembered by many as one of the best team goals in the history of the tournament.
28. Andre Escobar’s Own Goal Vs. U.S, 1994
In 1994, many fancied Andres Escobar to inspire the Colombian team to victory over the United States. Disastrously, Escobar went from hero to villain when he diverted the ball into his own goal during the match meaning Colombia was set to crash out of the tournament early. Just two weeks later, Escobar was gunned down in a Medellin parking lot after one of the bodyguards of a drug lord counted losses after betting on the game. After his death, many in the national team quit in disgust as a sight of protest against the country’s many cartels.
29. Zidane at the Double in the Final Vs. Brazil, 1998
Most people are ecstatic at scoring once in any given final. To score two goals at the world stage is just phenomenal. Zinedine Zidane helped France clench victory by whopping Brazil 3-0 in Paris. The French national team was filled with a multi-ethnic array of players, considered a model of European integration. Zidane, of Algerian descent, seemed to signify hunger and desire evident in the team when he scored a bullet header in the first half. His talents were well known before the tournament kicked off, his brace simply reiterated the need for defenders to take note of the indefatigable Zizzou regularly.
30. The Stunning of the Masses, Brazil Vs. Uruguay, 1950
When Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1950, few expected the team to perform dismally at any point in the competition. The Maracana Stadium hosted the match against the Uruguayans, with an estimated 200,000 fans in attendance.
Uruguay took a commanding two-goal lead before the Brazilians tried to claw their way back into the game. The large crowd watched on expecting Brazil to pull a comeback after they managed to score the first goal on the way up. Disappointingly, the Brazilian team crashed out losing to Uruguay 2-1. The moment signified one of the worst moments that Brazilians have faced in the tournament. Since then, they’ve gone on to win the competition five times and cement themselves as world greats.
31. Eusebio Thrills for Portugal, 1966
Even though the 1996 FIFA World Cup was won by England, they did not produce the star man of the tournament. Instead, Eusebio, of Mozambique descent, playing for his adopted country Portugal, took their World Cup campaign a notch higher by producing scintillating displays. Remarkably during a game against underdogs North Korea, Portugal was 3-0 down after 25 minutes. Then, Eusebio delivered incredible footwork to score two goals before halftime. After the break, he followed up with two more goals before Jose Augusto sealed the victory with 10 minutes left to spare. Eusebio is considered a great because he had a massive role in helping Portugal establish themselves as great contenders in the footballing world scene.
32. Michael Owen does it For England, 1998
Many can attest to the exceptional qualities Michael Owen possessed when at his prime. In 1998, he was considered one of the best young stars in the game. Playing against Argentina, Owen managed to dance around the pitch after receiving the ball from David Beckham. He shrugged off a challenge from Jose Chamot, sprinted past Roberto Aya, dummied a pass with Scholes before neatly striking the ball into the top left corner. The moment is remembered fondly as one of the best individuals runs in FIFA World Cup history.
33. Ronaldo Seizes the Opportunity, 2002
After bitterly losing 3-0 to France in the 1998 Version of the competition, Ronaldo was familiar with the depressing feeling of loss. Having failed to steer his team to victory in the final, four years earlier on, partly because he was not in pristine condition after suffering a seizure.
Fresh off a knee injury in 2002, Ronaldo ensured that he was able to show off his talents to the world. He scored eight goals in the FIFA World Cup tournament and won the Golden Boot. After scoring the only two goals in the finals, he was subbed off and walked out the pitch contented in what he had just achieved, a broad smile plastered on his face.
34. Scotland’s Incredible Goal Vs. Holland, 1978
As the only British nation to qualify for the World Cup in 1978, optimism was sky high for the Scots. However, their dreams were shattered once they started the tournament after they lost the first match to Peru before drawing with Iran. Their final match was against Scotland, and they had to score at least three goals to land a qualification spot. After going behind in the first half, Scotland produced a moment of magic in the 68th minute after Kenny Dalglish lost the ball to his compatriot, Archie Gemmil.
The diminutive Gemmil took the ball past a Dutch diving defender, cut inside, produced a well-timed ball fake before putting the ball through another defender. Taking the ball past a third defender, he was open on goal with the keeper only to beat. He lobbed the ball over the keeper before breaking into celebration. Even though Holland went on to win the game, the goal became treasured by Scots so much that it got featured in the 1996 film, Trainspotting.
35. The Miracle of Bern, 1954
Following the harrowing tales of the World War II, Germany was devastated. The people were longing for the day to come when they would unite in national pride to celebrate a feat by their citizens. The 1954 FIFA World Cup offered the perfect opportunity for West Germany to inspire its citizens. They made their way to the final against Hungary, a notoriously deadly team who have managed to win 32 straight matches. After going 2-0 behind the Hungarians after eight minutes, the West Germans came alive 10 minutes later when they equalized through Max Morlock and Helmut Rahn. With 6 minutes of normal time remaining, Rahn became a celebrity when he got the winning goal. The moment is regarded as one of the greatest moments in the World Cup because it greatly helped divided Germany, both East, and West, unite over national issues.
36. Burruchaga achieves a Childhood Dream Vs. West Germany, 1986
In the final, Argentina met up with West Germany and was quick to get off the blocks with two early goals. However, as fate would have it, West Germany equalized the score from two corner kicks. With momentum with them, the West Germans tried to stifle Argentina and force them to capitulate through a mistake. It was Maradona who managed to rescue the Argentinian dream by finding the open Burruchaga with a through ball. Burruchaga was able to achieve a childhood dream by racing through and beating the goalie, Harold Schumacher.
37. Saeed’s Solo Goal Run, 1994
Saeed Al-Ovarian, representing Saudi Arabia scored a famous individual goal in FIFA World Cup history in 1994. He beat everyone who came between him and goal by dummying a good number of times when faced by defenders. His emphatic finish helped Saudi Arabia position themselves ready to take on the world, even though it was their first ever foray into the World Cup scene. The Belgian defense was bamboozled his wonderful control which allowed him to shimmy past a handful of players. Because of his goal, Saeed earned the nickname as “Maradona of the Arabs,” a good publicity move that allowed him to become featured in numerous commercials and receiving a good number of awards for his play.
38. Gordon Banks Saves Pele’s Shot, 1970
As defending champions, England looked like the team to beat. At the same time, the Brazilian team was regarded as supremely talented. With Pele still in his prime, his wondrous shot at goal seemed something akin to a Superman shot. How Gordon Banks was able to stretch out and make the save is considered a modern-day miracle by some. In the first half, Jairzinho worked his magic and sent a cross to Pele who headed the cross downward with high pace. The cross seemed like it had been aimed towards the left post. However, since it came from the right, Banks had been drawn towards the other post. He managed to get there just in time to pull off cat-like reflexes with the dive and knock the ball away. As legend has it, he was able to get to the ball using his thumb only, yet, he flicked it over the bar. England would go on to lose the match 3-2. Still, Banks save became immortalized because of the sheer brilliance.
39. Flying Dutchman: Robin Van Persie’s Incredible Goal Vs. Spain, 2014
When FIFA World Cup 2010 finalists, Netherlands and Spain were drawn up in the same group in 2014, many expected fireworks. They were treated to a fantastic display after the Dutch came back to deliver a statement after Spain trounced them in the final.
Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben managed to score two past Iker Casillas, right before the eyes of the world. Despite the match ending 5-1 in favor of the Dutch, it was Van Persie’s excellent goal to equalize that inspired them to march towards victory. Daley Blind raked in a beautiful diagonal pass from left to right that looped over Sergio Ramos to the oncoming Van Persie. Looking up, Van Persie noticed that Casillas was half-a-yard too far forward and decided to loop the keeper from 15 yards with a high diving header. A sublime piece of skill that immediately went down into history as one of the most beautiful goals ever scored.
40. James Rodriguez’s Puskas Worthy Moment, 2014
James Rodriguez has handsomely rewarded the Golden Boot after his goalscoring exploits at the 2014 edition of the FIFA World Cup. He netted six times in just five games to pip 2010’s Golden Boot winner, Thomas Muller, to the big prize.
Facing their South American opponents, Uruguay in the last 16, the Colombian playmaker made the most of his effort after collecting the ball from his teammate, Abel Aguilar. He chested the ball from 25-yards out, before taking a deftly taken powerful dipping volley that crashed in off the underside of the crossbar.
41. Maicon’s Wonderous Goal, 2010
In a match pitting North Korea against Brazil, full-back Maicon came up with a physics-defying, moment of magic once he placed an acute strike past the keeper. The fantastic strike, taken at almost where pitch margins are at helped propel Brazil onto the quarterfinals where they faced the Netherlands.
After the match, both pundits and fans questioned whether Maicon meant for the goal to go in. Nevertheless, the emphatic celebration by the man himself seemed to tell the story of a man confident in his abilities.
42. Carlos Alberto’s Fantastic Goal, Brazil Vs. Italy, 1970
The Brazilian selecao are highly regarded in the football scene because of their scintillating displays at the FIFA World Cup. With their brand of samba football, they have contributed significantly to the current state of things in the beautiful game.
During 1970 final, Carlos Alberto produced a moment of absolute wonder. With ball flicked to Pele and Carlos Alberto arriving into shooting distance on the right, there finish was unmistakable. His thunderous shot went into the back of the net in full glory of the technicolor video.
43. Gascoigne’s Tears Vs. West Germany, 1990
During the second semi-final in Italia ’90, England’s star player in midfield, Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne, goes for the ball in a bid to help his team take hold of the game. His lunge on Thomas Berthold makes him get yellow carded before he starts to shed tears because the second yellow in as many games meant that he would be able to participate in the final. The moment is unique because it captured the emotions of most England fans, the fleeting success, and eventual noble defeat.
44. Zinedine Zidane’s Red Card Vs. Italy, 2006
On his final FIFA World Cup game, Zinedine Zidane was looking to wrap things up on a high. Having made significant contributions to the France cause through the group stages, the knockout phase and now in the final, Zidane was ready to become world champion. However, things didn’t pan out as he would have wanted. In extra time, Zizou is angered by words uttered to him by Italy’s central defender, Marco Materazzi and proceeds to head-butt his on the chest. The referee Horacio Elizondo was compelled to dismiss the French captain before the team capitulated during the penalty shootout.
45. Schumacher’s Challenge, 1982
With the scores tied at 1-1 and in the second half, Michel Platini gently lofted a ball in behind the German defense to release Patrick Battison. Rushing clear on goal, the Frenchman clipped the ball past the onrushing Schumacher. Disappointingly, the ball rolls wide and Battison goes crashing to the ground. The keeper was at fault because despite having the opportunity to change course, proceeded to clatter into the attacker. Unconscious, Battison was stretchered off with a broken jaw and three missing teeth.
46. Marco Tardelli’s Celebration Vs. Germany, 1982
With so many fantastic games played in the 1982 edition of the FIFA World Cup, one would naturally assume that one of the top moments would have to be a goal, tack, foul or pass. Unmistakably, Marco Tardelli produced one of the highlight reels from the tournament. Italy was playing against the Germans when he found the perfect opportunity to put Italy 2-0 ahead. His outstretched gesture, arms shaking, eyes bulging and frantically screaming at the cameras and fans, remains a great moment captured to this day.
47. Casillas’ Kiss, 2010
Right after emerging victorious in the final against the Netherlands, Spain was in cloud nine. In their triumph, no one seemed more excited than Casillas. When the opportunity presented itself, he made sure that the whole world understood his frame of mind. His journalist girlfriend, Sara Carbonero, was in South Africa on official duties, came over to interview him before emotion overcame him.
Quizzed if he needed time to compose himself, Cassilas replied in the negative before embracing his girlfriend.
48. Luis Enrique’s Broken Nose
During the FIFA World Cup in 1994, it quickly became apparent that Spain would not be victorious once the referee, Sandor Puhl, failed to spot Luis Enrique’s nose being broken by the Italian Mauro Tassoti during the third minute of extra time. The Spanish manager, Javier Clemente was infuriated by the incident and went on to accuse the referee of being complacent. At the time, Italy was untouchable because of their reputation on the world stage. That narrative seems to check out since the referee can be spotted not too far away from the action. The decision not to award a judgment in Spain’s favor didn’t go down well with those allied to Spain. Italy went on to win the match 2-1 and the moment went down as a contentious happening.
49. The Shirt Exchange Tradition, 1970
Considered the greatest players of their generation, Pele, and Bobby Moore faced each other at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico representing their respective nations, Brazil and England. Jarzinho’s goal helped Brazil secure a 1-0 win for Brazil before the pair met up at the end of the match. They seemed to have a hearty laugh at the end and swapped shirts to mark the first time such a thing had happened. The moment remains unique because it started a tradition of shirt swaps at full time.
50. Historic Defeat Vs. Germany, 2014
After their star player, Neymar was stretchered off during their match against Colombia, Brazil’s hopes of beating Germany were already low. What most didn’t anticipate was the merciless thrashing they received in the hands of the Germans. Seeming as if they were scoring just for fun, the Germans kept going at the Brazilians and left them humiliated with the scoreline reading 7-1 at full time. Most people could not believe that the ever-enterprising Brazilians could be humbled in the manner that they were by Germany.
51. The Battle of Nuremberg, 2006
Typically, the FIFA World Cup is a competitive tournament. When Portugal and Netherlands went head to head in 2006, there were fireworks. When things got too heated up, Russian referee, Valentin Ivanov, began issuing card left, right and center. The day went down in history books for the most total of cards dispensed. Ivanov issued 16 yellow cards and four red cards in a single game because of the aggressive nature both teams seemed to show. As a consequence, two players were barred from playing in the next round after qualification.
52. Nigel De Jong’s Kung-Fu Kick, 2010
When the Netherlands and Spain met up in the World Cup final, many expected a scintillating display from both teams. With Xabi Alonso, part of Spain’s creative influence, fast approaching towards the Netherlands goal mouth, Nigel De Jong decided to steal the ball away from the Spaniard and ended up failing miserably at it. He caught the playmaker in the chest with a kung-fu kick. Luckily for him, Howard Webb, the referee did not make a fuss about the issue and only issued him with a pat on the back, a yellow card.
53. Rooney Vs. Ronaldo, 2006
As Manchester United forwards, Rooney and Ronaldo met up in different circumstances at the world stage. When Wayne Rooney characteristically went off in rage and was issued a red card for stamping at a Portuguese player, many expected Ronaldo to go to him to offer him some solace. However, the camera’s caught Ronaldo winking at his teammates, and Rooney made his way off the pitch. In anger, Rooney shoved Ronaldo because his intervention facilitated the red card to happen.
54. Brazil Vs. Sweden, 1958
The young Pele announced himself to the world in emphatic fashion. Brazil thrashed Sweden 5-2 and went on to become world champions. As the legend goes, Pele was not supposed to make his way to the pitch. However, fate led him to the pitch thanks to fellow players convincing the coach to let him play. The coach’s decision was vindicated because Pele went on to score in all the following games at the world cup.
55. The goal of the Century by Maradona, 1986
Just minutes after scoring the infamous “Hand of God” goal at the 1986 FIFA World Cup tournament in Mexico, Diego Maradona produced a sublime piece of work that has now gone into folklore as one of the greatest ever goals in World Cup history. From his half, Maradona proceeded to maker a 60-yard run, dribbling past 5 English players before finding his way to the penalty area and letting the ball fly past Peter Shilton, the goalkeeper. The goal helped Argentina qualify for the semifinals thanks to Maradona’s moment of flair.
56. The Miracle on Grass, 1950
At the time, England was considered as the more of footballing champions. Thus, when they met up with the USA in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, many expected them to make light work of the American team. However, they were defeated 1-0 by the United States in the first round. As the narrative goes, once the news got back to England through newspapers, many could not believe what had just transpired and thought of the whole thing as a misprint.
57. They Think it’s Over Commentary, 1966
Kenneth Wolstenholme’s description of the final moments in the 1966 final between England and West Germany at Wembley was so iconic because of the timing and execution. Moments before Geoff Hurst met Bobby Moore’s long pass to complete his hat-trick, Wolstenholme captured the moment by saying, “Some people are on the pitch (the crowd starts to spill onto the field) … they think it’s all over (Geoff Hurst scores to put England two goals ahead) … IT IS NOW!”
58. Three-Peat for the Beautiful Team, 1970
During the 1970 FIFA World Cup, few could disagree with the notion that the Brazilians were just superb. Historians and critics agree that the 1970 Brazilian squad could be the greatest soccer team of all time. The team was filled with star names like Pele, Tostao, Carlos Alberto, Jairzinho, and Rivelino. They won all six of their games before proceeding to capture the World Cup for the third time in a row by beating Italy 4-1 in the final.
59. Mwepa’s Boot, 1974
The FIFA World Cup tournament is renown for producing fantastic pieces of play. However, on one particular occasion, Zaire’s Mwepa produced a series of activities that baffled many because it didn’t make much sense. Brazil had just been awarded a free-kick against Zaire and was lining up to take it when suddenly, Mwepa broke out of the defensive wall, ran forward and illegally booted the ball upfield before the free-kick had been made. Justifiably, the referee gave him a yellow card for his actions. Many were left dazzled by what had just happened unable to comprehend what had motivated Mwepa to kick the ball.
60. Manuel Negrete’s Scissor-Kick Goal Vs. Bulgaria, 1986
Manuel Negrete was the man of the moment during the 1986 FIFA World Cup when he leaped high to score a goal that most schoolboys dream of scoring. Invitingly, the ball dropped for the Mexican striker before he took an acrobatic posture and fantastically executed his volley right outside the penalty area and earn his team a deserved 1-0 win over Bulgaria. The goal was so perfect that many have speculated that it is nigh impossible for a striker to recreate such a moment.